2010 Mazda MAZDA3
Looking at the Mazda3
, you can’t help but smile. Not unlike the Volkswagen Beetle
, its bug-eyed (no pun intended), wide mouthed front-end has a clandestine and undeniably infectious way of putting a smirk on your face without you even realizing what’s happened. Unlike Volkswagen’s aging Beetle, however, once behind the wheel of the Mazda3 that smile won’t fade into a scowl, as the Mazda3 is indeed an entertaining steer. The moment the sheet was yanked off the car at the 2008 LA Auto Show, it was apparent that the Mazda’s bestseller had been carefully evolved rather than taken back to the drawing board and reworked from square one. It’s a good thing too, because the previous generation Mazda3 was heralded as one of the most – if not the
most – truly engaging economy cars. The new 2.5-liter unit offers more punch than the 2.3-liter it replaces, though Mazda has also kept the frugal 2.0-liter engine in service for those preferring efficiency to outright grunt. Inside the 3 puts the focus on the driver, with improved ergonomics and a new Multi-Information Display that sits atop the center stack. One thing’s quite clear – the Mazda3 is here to defend its reputation, and it’s not afraid to come out swinging.
What's to Like
A lineup including two engines across five trims – with “s” models including a hatchback model for seven separate model trims total – gives buyers a lot of options. Mazda has tuned the chassis to deliver a properly entertaining driving experience, something you rarely find at this price point and in front-wheel drive cars in general.
What's Not to Like
The small MID nav screen too severely limits functionality – we like the idea of simplifying the navigation system, but perhaps this is too much, especially considering many competitors offer full-size nav units. Five-door models are only available in pricier 2.5-liter s model trims.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
While some cars are seemingly built with the driver as an afterthought, the Mazda3 puts the focus on whoever is behind the wheel. At first the driving position feels a bit high, but you soon discover it fits the car well. The steering’s weight and balance at speed is bang on, and the gear change in the manual ‘box is light yet positive. What’s not so perfect is clutch feel, which could be a little clearer in communicating where exactly the biting point is. It’s somewhere in the middle of the pedal travel, but zeroing in on it is a bit of a guessing game. The 2.5-liter’s breadth of midrange power is impressive although you may find the run up to the redline a bit anticlimactic – the very top of the rev range is a bit short of breath. It’s difficult to believe the front wheels are delivering the power, as torque steer never even bothers to make a cameo appearance and jumping to the throttle early in a corner quickly becomes an unbreakable habit. Body roll is minimal and the suspension delivers a ride that feels planted without being too stiff, road noise only becoming an issue when overly-coarse surfaces are encountered.
Engine and Drivetrain
Two engines are available in the 2010 Mazda3. The “i” trims get a 2.0-liter inline-four producing 148 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque, while “s” trims use a 2.5-liter inline-four producing 167 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. 2.0-liter cars come standard with a five-speed manual while 2.5-liter cars go with six gears. An optional five-speed automatic replaces the old four-speed unit – it is the 21st century after all.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Only two options packages are available, simplifying the buying process. The rather self-explanatory moonroof/6CD/Bose package adds a 242-watt, 10-speaker Bose surround sound system, moonroof and in-dash MP3 compatible 6-disc CD changer. A technology package adds a Multi-Information Display atop the dash, keyless go, push button start and Sirius satellite radio. We like the idea of the MID display, but its 4.1-inch display is rather small and functionality is limited.
Key Technology Evaluation
While the Tech Package is a great add-on, we were really impressed by the standard features crammed into the top-of-the-heap Grand Touring trim. Bi-xenon HID headlights, an adaptive front-lighting system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated seats and dual-zone climate control are just some of the features included.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
More aerodynamic packaging and new final drive ratio has resulted in a small increase in fuel efficiency. Paired to a manual transmission, the 2.0-liter engine achieves 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, and performs only marginally worse with the automatic transmission, at 24/33. 2.5-liter models are capable of 21/29 with a manual transmission and 22/29 with the five-speed automatic. All Mazda3 powertrains are front-wheel drive.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Mazda has put the focus of the interior on the driver, as is evidenced by a button-covered steering wheel and MID display positioned just left of center so that drivers don’t have to look away from the road. Twin electroluminescent gauges are perched atop the steering column and those familiar with the previous Mazda3’s stereo system will feel quite at home – despite the new unit looking different, its functions are essentially the same.
Up front, a single front grille replaces the old split unit, and the elongated headlamps now continue well into the fender. A high rear deck lid on sedans complements the vehicle’s beltline, and dual exhaust tips are now featured under the shapely rear bumper. Five-door models see more prominent use of side sills and protruding rear lamps.
Market Segment and Pricing
The base MSRP for the Mazda3 begins as low as $15,045 (before destination charges) for the four-door i SV, rising as high as $22,300 for the s Grand Touring automatic. Expect to pay at least $17,500 for a decently equipped car, such as the i Touring. Competitors include the $15,350 Toyota Corolla
, $16,695 Kia Spectra5
, $15,520 Ford Focus
and $15,505 Honda Civic
What We Think
There was little doubt the new Mazda3 would be a hit, but we’re inclined to say this time around it may even surpass 1.8 million sales of the previous generation. It has always resided a bit off the beaten path traveled by Civic and Corolla buyers, and we’re glad the car hasn’t gone soft in order to capture more sales. Mazda has put together a package that’s as economical and practical as it is engaging and responsive, something few companies get right. The chassis is begging for high-output turbocharged power, and Mazda has the engine. Bring on the Mazdaspeed3.